Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was a sculptor, painter and architect considered to be one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance period. His work demonstrated a blend of psychological insight and intensity never before seen. His contemporaries recognized his talent, and Michelangelo received commissions from some of the most powerful men of his day, including popes and others affiliated within the Catholic Church. His resulting work, most notably his Sistine Chapel ceiling paintings, has been carefully tended and preserved, ensuring that generations to come would be able to view and appreciate Michelangelo's genius. According to one source, Michelangelo Buonarroti, the greatest of the Italian Renaissance artists, is born in the small village of Caprese on March 6, 1475 (Michelangelo Born). His father worked there as a magistrate for the Florentine republic. His family soon returned to the city of Florence, which was most known for the great cultural movement known as the Renaissance. Growing up in Florence, Michelangelo was in the right place at the right time. Florence during the Renaissance period was a vibrant arts center, a good place for Michelangelo's talents to develop and flourish.
In 1481, when he was six, his mother died and Michelangelo was placed in the care of a foster-mother in a town five miles from Florence. At first his father did not approve of his son's interest in art as a career. But at 13, Michelangelo was apprenticed to painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, who was particularly known for his murals. Ghirlandaio was also known as the leading fresco (wall) painter in Florence. According to a source, the 1490's were troubled times for Florence, and so the young Michelangelo looked for commissions elsewhere (Harris, page 1). In 1496, Michelangelo went to Rome, where he was able to create his first masterpiece. The visiting French cardinal Jean Bilhères de Lagraulas, envoy of King Charles VIII to the pope wanted to create a massive statue depicting a draped Virgin Mary with her dead son resting in her arms, a Pietà to grace his own future tomb.